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Historic hymnals now housed at Prov

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 07/8/2018 8:45 AM

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Providence University College Music Department Head David Sawatzky shows off one of the approximately 2,300 hymnals that are now housed within the walls of the PUC music department.

DAVE BAXTER | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Providence University College Music Department Head David Sawatzky shows off one of the approximately 2,300 hymnals that are now housed within the walls of the PUC music department.

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Providence University College (PUC) is now home to what may be the largest collection of hymnals in all of Canada thanks to a generous donation by a former PUC staff member who spent decades building up his unique collection.

Former music department head Don Thiessen recently donated his entire collection of approximately 2,300 hymnals.

Current music department head David Sawatzky said the collection spans centuries of history, as the oldest hymnal in the collection dates back to the 1840s.

He said he now plans for the books to not simply sit on a shelf, as he wants to use them and incorporate them into future lessons and curriculum.

"I always say if you want to know the theology or what a church believes in or stands up for, just look at what they sing," Sawatzky said.

"There are thousands and thousands of songs here and there are messages in the songs. It’s a great way to look back and see what was sung in churches previously, and these come from all different denominations."

He also said he wants to make sure hymnals don’t become a thing of the past, and something that is forgotten in modern churches or music departments.

"Hymnals are starting to disappear from our churches so to have a collection like this is to have a great window into churches pasts," he said.

Sawatzky said Thiessen, who ran the music department during parts of the 1980s and 1990s, started collecting hymnals around 1980, but not with the goal of collecting thousands.

He added Thiessen slowly collected the hymnals from places like antique book stores, garage sales and flea markets, and they spent years stored in Thiessen’s garage.

"He just started with a few books and it was not an effort to start collecting until he realized he had 20 or 30 and decided just to keep building on that," Sawatzky said.

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